Ansa Assuncao LLP Secures Dismissal of Complaint Filed Against UPS in Philadelphia County for Lack of Jurisdiction

On November 29, 2017, Ansa Assuncao LLP’s team, comprised of members of the Maryland and Philadelphia offices, secured dismissal of a Complaint filed against firm client United Parcel Service, Inc. (“UPS”) in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas for lack of jurisdiction. The case arose from a motor vehicle accident that occurred in Maryland and involved a UPS driver working out of a Maryland facility and a then-Virginia resident Plaintiff. UPS, Plaintiff admitted, was a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business located in Georgia. Plaintiff claimed that jurisdiction existed in Pennsylvania because: (1) the UPS driver involved in the accident was a Pennsylvania resident; (2) UPS “consented” to general jurisdiction in Pennsylvania by registering to do business there as a foreign corporation; and (3) UPS has “continuous and systematic business dealings in Pennsylvania” in the form of package drop boxes, package pickup and drop-off locations, and shipping facilities.

UPS filed Preliminary Objections, arguing that the Philadelphia Court lacked both specific and general personal jurisdiction over UPS. UPS argued that specific jurisdiction was lacking because the causes of action Plaintiff alleged against UPS did not arise out of any action or activity by UPS or its driver in Pennsylvania and instead related to alleged actions that occurred exclusively in Maryland. General jurisdiction was lacking, UPS argued, because the Due Process Clause does not allow a corporation that operates in many places to be deemed “at home” (and thus, subject to jurisdiction) in all of them. Accordingly, any reading of Pennsylvania’s business registration statute that would require all companies registering to do business in the state to be subjected to general jurisdiction would be unconstitutional.

Our team’s briefings relied on a recent United States Supreme Court case, BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S. Ct. 1549 (2017), where the Court confirmed that general jurisdiction over a corporation can only be exercised when the corporation: (1) is incorporated in the forum state; or (2) has its principal place of business there. The Supreme Court, we explained, has found a single possible exception to that rule: when a business’s operations are “so substantial and of such nature as to render the corporation at home” in the forum state. But, as our briefings emphasized, on just one occasion in the last 60 years had the Supreme Court found that such exceptional circumstances existed. In that one exceptional case, Perkins v. Bengt Consol. Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437 (1952), the defendant corporation temporarily relocated its enterprise from a foreign country to the forum state during wartime events that impacted business operations in the Pacific, where the company previously had been located. Relying on evidence obtained during jurisdictional discovery, our team persuasively demonstrated that just a small fraction of UPS’s total delivery volume, work force, and revenue is based in, or generated from, Pennsylvania (the forum state), making Pennsylvania no more a place of “substantial” business operations for UPS than any other state. Indeed, we argued, if UPS’s contacts with Pennsylvania were deemed sufficient to confer jurisdiction in this case, UPS—and all other businesses with nationwide reach—would be subject to jurisdiction in all 50 states, which is plainly inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s due process constraints.

After extensive briefing and oral argument handled by our team, the Court agreed that jurisdiction over UPS was lacking. It sustained the Preliminary Objections and dismissed UPS from the action.

Jennifer Ann Wright is a Partner in our Maryland office.
Heather L. Williams is a Partner in our Maryland office.